We anticipate needs, not wants.
Our standard line is, “We will do our best to meet your needs, but we can’t always meet your wants.” As a parent, it gives me joy to give special things to my kids, but sometimes that’s just not possible, and more often than not, indulging their wants (for things, for attention, for activity) ends up creating a demanding child. Everything in balance, right?
Anyway, most kids don’t know what their real needs are, and here’s where we usually have conflict. I don’t know many kids who realize their need for instruction, supervision, or permission. Most kids really don’t see the need to take responsibility, to be kind, or to clean up after themselves. These are "needs" that must be taught, and that's not always the most pleasant part of parenting.
Wouldn’t you know, last night we got to see this point in living color. After dinner, Allie (14) came rushing into the kitchen, her face ashen, and whispered in my ear that she had something to tell me. In the privacy of the laundry room, she tearfully explained that her phone accidentally fell into the toilet. At that moment, she did not “need” a lecture on why text-messaging in the bathroom is a bad idea. She needed a hug (And yes, she got the lecture later. Ack - I’m working on it, but I couldn’t help myself!).
When the emotion wore off, I’m sure she thought we would replace her phone for her. “I need to be able to call you!” she sobbed. No, at 14, we felt she “needs” to know what it’s like to work and save money to replace her phone. Her need to learn responsibility in this situation
outweighs her desire (I almost called it a need!) to have instant access to call mom.
Some needs are easier to meet than others.
The need for "company" usually drives me crazy. I have so many other things I'd rather be doing. As Andrea mentioned yesterday, it is easy as kids get older to assume they can do something by themselves. I get frustrated when they don't want to do it unless I'm standing RIGHT THERE ("I know you know how to do this; why do I need to be here?").
I know, just a little hint of empathy can turn a job into fun versus making it feel like punishment. When I say, "What else can I do for you?" I am supporting my child while she cleans up her mess. I am not cleaning it up for her, but she knows I am there. How much better for my child to say, "You can go now, Mom. I've got this," than to have her calling me constantly, or worse, sitting in a state of paralysis until I
threaten her with dire consequences arrive, all in a huff. Now if I can just remember to do this.
Can you think of other "needs" we can be better about anticipating?